eHealth · Medical Records Online · Summer school

Preparing for the second week of the eHealth summer school

KTH

During the last week of June I wrote a series of blog posts about an eHealth summer school I participated in, together with some colleagues from Uppsala University and KTH as well as several other Ph.D. students and postdocs from around the world. That week of activities, which we spent at Trinity College Dublin, was very well organized and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to be there and experience every part of it. You can read about the content and my experiences of it in these blog posts:

Now, we are approaching the second week of the summer school, which will be held in Stockholm (KTH) and Uppsala (Uppsala University). I’m really excited about getting to meet everyone again and experience a new week filled with interesting lectures and exercises! During the last day of the week in Dublin the organizers of the second week – Jan Gulliksen and Åsa Cajander – presented the plan for the week in Stockholm (you can read a summary of that presentation if you follow the link to Day 5 above). We got two small tasks to work with during the summer:

  1. Come up with a citation of our own work, as a means of illustrating how we want other researchers to cite us.
  2. Prepare a Pecha Kucha (using a template), presenting ourselves as researchers, our research, the citation from 1) and a kind of personal fun fact.

Today, I have been working with those two tasks. Coming up with the citation was certainly not easy, since I have been working in quite a lot of fields. But since everything I do relate to mediated communication and a rather special analysis technique (focusing on how technology affects the means by which we talk to each other) I settled for a citation related to how the methodology I have been using can be applied by others. I will not show the citation here – everything will be revealed during the first day in Stockholm! 🙂

Preparing the Pecha Kucha was also quite hard due to my many research areas. My first idea was to focus entirely on eHealth (since this is an eHealth school), but that would give far from a complete picture of what I’m doing as a researcher. I will instead try to browse through all three of my main areas multimodal communication, eHealth and social media in higher education. I’m really looking forward to see the other participants’ presentations. We will all present just before lunch during the first day in Stockholm.

Preparing the two small tasks mentioned above is not the only thing I need to do before the second week of the summer school starts. During the Tuesday, which we will spend in Uppsala, I will be one of the speakers! I will present and discuss the results from the national patient survey (a short version of that presentation was held at the Vitalis presentation last spring, see this blog post). It will definitely be an interesting experience to be a speaker as well as a participant. Christiane Grünloh, my colleague from KTH, has the same situation – she will, together with Åsa Cajander, present and discuss the professionals’ perspective right before my presentation. During that same day in Uppsala there will also be presentations by medical professionals and other stake holders.

Another thing that was announced the last day in Dublin, during the presentation of the Stockholm week, was that the participants should help deciding what we should do the last two days in Stockholm. Those two days are still blank in the schedule so I guess the content will be revealed during the first day in Stockholm. I’m really looking forward to see what will happen there! Unfortunately, I did not think about it when the ideas for content were collected, but one very interesting activity could be a variant of the critical incident workshop that I wrote about here and here. I really enjoyed that workshop and many interesting ideas came out of it. Anyhow, the presentations and activities during the first three days seem really interesting, so I’m positive we will have two great final Days!

Cognition · conference · Haptics · Multimodality

Preparing submissions for the SweCog 2017 conference, held at Uppsala University!

SweCog2017_Uppsala

This week, I’m preparing submissions for this year’s version of the SweCog (Swedish Cognitive Science Society) conference. This conference covers a broad range of topics related to cognitive science. When I participated last year, when the conference was held at Chalmers, Gothenburg, I did not present anything (actually, none of the participants from Uppsala University did), but the situation this year is quite different since Uppsala University is hosting the event!

I really enjoyed last year’s conference much due to the large variety of topics covered and the very interesting keynote lectures. It was also (and still is, I assume) a single track conference, meaning that you will not have to choose which paper session to attend. As I remember there were ten paper presentations in total, three keynote lectures and one poster session during the two days conference. You can read more about my experiences from SweCog 2016 in this blog post, summing up that event. I also wrote summaries from day 1 and day 2.

Since the only thing that’s required is an extended abstract of 1-3 pages (and max 500 words), I’m working on several submissions. A topic that was not covered during last year’s conference was collaboration in multimodal environments and specifically how different combinations of modalities can affect communication between two users solving a task together. Since that is one of my main research interests, I now see my chance to contribute! The deadline for extended abstract submissions to SweCog 2017 is September 4, so there is still a lot of time to write. The conference will be held October 26-27 at Uppsala University. Since registration to the conference is free for SweCog members (membership is also free), I expect to see many of my old KTH colleagues at Uppsala University during the conference days! 😉  You can find more information about the conference here.

Before I started planning for contributions to SweCog 2017, I invited some of my “multimodal colleagues” from KTH to join the writing process. As a result, Emma Frid and I will collaborate on an extended abstract about a follow-up study to the study I present here. Thus, our contribution will focus on how multimodal feedback can affect visual focus when two users are solving a task together in a collaborative virtual environment. Since I have not yet heard from any other colleague, I plan to write another extended abstract on my own, about how multimodal feedback (or rather combinations of visual, haptic and auditory feedback) can affect the means by which users talk to each other while working in collaborative virtual environments. Maybe, I will also throw in a third one about the potential of using haptic guiding functions (see this blog post for an explanation of this concept) in situations where sighted and visually impaired users collaborate.

 

Climate · Planet Earth

A very inspiring talk by Ulf Danielsson about the fragile system we are part of

Spegling1

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about a “summer talk” in Lövstabruk where professor Ingemar Ernberg from Karolinska Institutet talked about what is needed to support a creative academic environment. Yesterday, I visited Lövstabruk again for yet another inspiring talk. This time, Ulf Danielsson, professor of theoretical physics from Uppsala University was the invited guest. His talk focused on the fatal yet in the short term unlikely threats that are at play out there in the dark, in our atmosphere as well as on and inside the surface of our planet. I will bring up some of the main points here, since I believe that the content of the talk is important to everyone.

It quickly became very clear that our planet is very exposed and that we should consider ourselves very lucky to be around at all. Some of the large forces out there, which we can’t really do anything about are:

  • Supernovae – if a star sufficiently close to us (a few 10ths of light years) explodes, our ozone layer could be destroyed and – if it occurs closely enough – our oceans boiled away.
  • Hypernovae (this was a new concept to me) – these are even more powerful than supernovae and apparently send out focused rays. If we are hit by such a ray (not too far from the explosion) all will definitely be over for us.
  • Asteroids, comets… – there are quite a lot of these moving around and they are often crossing the Earth’s orbit (luckily, we are seldom at the intersection point/time).
  • Our sun itself – Ulf referred to the sun as “a giant nuclear plant completely without supervision” :). This pretty much means that there is a constant melt down over there. To top it all off outbursts on the surface of the sun can cause considerable problems for us, especially now when we are so dependent on electronics sensitive to electromagnetic pulses. Also, the radiation from the sun fluctuates and this causes changes between periods with high and low temperatures respectively. We also know that the sun will eventually die, and destroy the life on Earth when it expands in the process, thereby engulfing Mercury, Venus and possibly the Earth.

After a more cosmological beginning, Ulf focused more on the Earth itself. There are obviously large forces in play down here as well. The position of the different continents were brought up as one example. We know that once there was a single continent (Pangea) to begin with. Something obviously broke that land mass apart into differently sized pieces. An especially interesting example was India, which apparently was positioned at the opposite side of the now called Indian Ocean to begin with. That part of land travelled over the ocean, and later got in touch with the other side, so fast that scientists have been able to spot traces on the seafloor from the movement! No similar things are happening now, but we still experience problems with movement between tectonic plates. These activities can, among other things, cause volcanoes to erupt – something that was also brought up as dangerous forces during the talk. Though he did not use the term, he possibly meant supervolcanoes, since ordinary volcanoes erupt now and then without causing large-scale devastation. The lava itself is not the worst part, but rather the ashes that covers the sky preventing sun light, necessary for all photosynthesizing plants, to reach the ground, or acid rain which have been caused by volcanoes in the past. We cannot really do much about any of things as mentioned above, but must remain hoping for the best.

Besides talking about different kinds of threatening scenarios, Ulf also discussed some land marks for the evolution of life on our planet. One part I found especially interesting was the discussion about the birth of the photosynthesis. From the beginning we had methane in our atmosphere, causing the sky to be pink. We didn’t have advanced life on the planet at that point. But when blue-green algae started to show up the photosynthesis and oxygen (which at this point could be considered a dangerous gas) came as a consequence. Most of the oxygen reacted with iron dissolved in the oceans, which in turn caused iron oxide to sink to the seafloor and the heavy mass even continued to move through the bottom towards the core, thus slightly reducing Earth´s inertial momentum and so causing an increase in the Earth’s rotational speed! When there was not more iron to react with, the oxygen molecules began rising to the atmosphere and the sky turned from pink to blue. The rest is, well, history.

In the next part, Ulf talked more about changing temperatures on Earth some of which are due to human activity. One of the most interesting parts here was that India’s “race” over the ocean actually freed up carbon dioxide, causing the climate to be warmer for a period. But that situation changed when the piece of land collided on the other side and started forming the Himalayas – the movement that freed up the carbon dioxide stopped and instead we entered the cool period being sustained until now (although we are currently giving bound carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere at a very worrying rate). Another thing that was brought up regarding reasons for warm and cold periods was that other planets actually affect the Earth’s orbit.

A comparison with temperatures on Mars and Venus also made clear that we are positioned at a very special place in our solar system. The atmosphere on Venus, our closest inner neighbor, is vastly dominated by carbon dioxide causing a huge greenhouse effect – it is extremely hot and impossible for life to survive. The opposite is true on Mars, our closest outer neighbor, where weak gravity makes the atmosphere so thin that the greenhouse effect necessary for life cannot work. We are on a little planet in the middle, having the exact right conditions at least for now. Ulf also showed a picture taken from a space satellite, with stable position on the Sun-Earth connection line, with the Sun right behind, where the “full Moon” was seen covering a part of the “full Earth”. It became clear that we are very close to something grey and largely inhabitable. These comparisons really highlight that we live in a fragile system and Ulf really made the point that we need to think hard about where we are, what we can do with our knowledge about this system and what kind of future we want.

During the discussions after the traditional soup break the human’s role in the changing planet was brought up again. It is obvious that human activity is causing temperatures to rise and the rate is increasing as never before. Ulf thought the worst part of this was the uncertainty – it is very hard to predict the consequences of this. Even if the warming doesn´t cause e.g. drastic changes like mass extinction even minor changes in temperature can obviously cause coastal areas (those now prevailing) to be inhabitable, in turn causing huge floods of climate refugees, paving the way for conflicts and war. The very societies, on which our developed countries are so dependent, are also at risk here and where will those effects leave us? The discussion about the effects of extinction of other species was also brought up. Human activity plays a large role here and even though the extinction of a single species may not cause a catastrophe it is still a means of rendering our very fragile system even more fragile…

As I understand Ulf’s talk was based on his book “Vårt klot så ömkligt litet” (for the moment only in Swedish) which was published last year. I have not read the book, but Birgitta Östlund who organizes the summer talks had. She said that everyone should read the book and she even suggested that it should be mandatory in school. Birgitta has worked with popular adult education for several decades, so when she says something like that one had better take notice. The talk really got me thinking about where I am and what I am a part of and I am very curious about that book now!

The picture for this blog post was taken by me in the mountain range of northernmost Sweden (Abisko) a few years ago and I feel it somehow summarizes what we have been blessed with on this planet. Even though quite a lot seems to be left to chance, we should do what we can to protect the system that can offer us experiences and views like this, right?